Our new IEUA Federal Secretary

IEU members can rest assured our union will continue to thrive under the leadership of new Federal Secretary Brad Hayes, a seasoned unionist and self-described organiser at heart.

Emily Campbell spoke to Brad about his hopes for the union movement and some of the issues facing staff in the non-government education sector.

Path to leadership

IEUA Assistant Federal Secretary, Brad has almost 30 years’ experience working with the IEU, starting as an Organising Trainee at the Queensland and Northern Territory IEU (IEU-QNT) branch in 1997.

More recently, Brad has been an elected Assistant Secretary of the IEU-QNT branch.

“The Organising Works Traineeship program was a ground-breaking initiative of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and affiliated unions including the IEU,” Brad said.

“It sought to attract young activists and the next generation of organisers to the union movement.

“The program combined formal training with on-the-job-organising, and exposed trainees like me not only to my host union, IEU-QNT, but we also had access to a variety of union experiences across sectors and industries,” he said.

Organising North Queensland

Brad worked as an Organiser throughout regional and remote North Queensland, covering many schools and members throughout the years, which he counts among his career highlights.

“To grow with them and help those members find their union voice by acting together for the first time was an amazing experience.

“It’s a smaller scale version of that buzz you get at a member event or rally when hundreds of IEU members come together and realise the power and joy of their collective voice.”

Now, a federal office role means frequent travelling to work alongside the various IEU branches throughout Australia.

“In this sense, it’s like organising in schools and the same fundamentals apply: develop relationships and engage with members to build skills, activism and collective connections,” Brad said.

“As with all unions, we know without a strong base of active and engaged members, we can’t deliver the changes needed in our schools and early childhood education centres.”

Unity across branches

Brad said one of the major strengths of our federal union is the level of unity and shared commitment between different IEU branches.

“Our state and territory branches have been extremely generous in sharing strategies and providing honest assessments of success and failures,” he said.

“Such collaboration is an underestimated strength of our union.”

He acknowledged that the union movement had endured major challenges recently but is optimistic about the future.

“Despite the efforts of those who would like to see us disappear, we are not going anywhere.

“Unions like the IEU will continue to grow and adapt to a changing work and professional environment.

“You can sense a real mood for change across our worksites and the broader community.

“At the local, state branch and national level, it’s member strength combined with high-quality union officers that delivers results for members.

“From humble beginnings in a relatively limited non-government sector, we are now one of Australia’s largest unions and we’ve been able to deliver collective agreement coverage and union density levels exceeding the national average for the private sector,” he said.

Industrial and professional issues

Acutely aware of the professional issues members face in the non-government education sector, Brad said a combination of local action, sector-level negotiations and government interventions are part of the plan to tackle these problems.

“Education unions worldwide are grappling with the same challenges we are – a workload crisis in schools and a shortage of teachers and support staff.

“These issues contribute to a range of other problems including teacher burnout, out-of-subject teaching allocations and pressure to increase class sizes.

“The growth of technology in schools is a rapidly emerging issue, particularly with generative artificial intelligence (AI) has implications for workload and job security of members.

“These are complex issues which need addressing urgently.”

Brad said recent Federal Government reforms to industrial laws and planned repairs to our education system and the teaching profession are a positive start, but more needs to be done to ensure no workers are left behind.

“We must get wages moving to keep up with rising living costs and we have to find a better way for schools to operate that reduces unnecessary workload and the burden imposed on staff,” he said.

“As always, it will be union action that delivers the practical changes needed in our workplaces.

“Nationally, the IEU negotiates over 800 separate collective agreements that have delivered wages and conditions light years ahead of the minimum award.

“Our challenge is now to extend this bargaining success story into the final group of schools: early childhood education and post-secondary centres, that have been denied fair access to bargaining,” Brad said.